Photography by Yasutomo Ebisu
"...a kind of memory tells us that what we're now striving for was once nearer and truer and attached to us with infinite tenderness. Here all is distance, there it was breath."
A few weeks ago I read an article titled "What if all I want is a mediocre life?" In it, the author, Krista O'Reilly Davi-Digui, questions her own constant striving for more productivity and excellence: "What if I all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between? Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?"
After the last sentence, a tear escaped my eye, but not from sadness. It was the excess water from a wave of relief that washed out of my body. It was the best kind of writing that felt like a magic mirror, and showed me a part of myself that I hadn't dared to acknowledge out loud. As I sit here writing this in my small hometown of Bellingen- to which I've just returned- I'm asking myself the same questions around my life and what is "enough".
Of course, I wasn't the only person who had been moved by this writer's sentiment of humility- the number of shares on the article exceeded anything I'd ever circulated on social media. It struck me- are we all fed up with the unrelenting pressure to strive for "more"? (Whether that's more money, status, freedom, purpose, knowledge etc.) Are women, in particular, feeling like the role of mother/homemaker- if not combined with a career- is no longer enough? Is the average self-development devotee just as growth-obsessed as the capitalist high-achiever?
On giants' shoulders by Xabier Zirikiain
No matter which subculture we're a part of, none of us are immune to the constant pressure to perform. The particular faction I belong to is always looking for more healing, awareness and self-growth. We may feel like we're doing things differently by stepping off the corporate rat race and leading a holistic lifestyle, but actually we're still hustling- instead, it's for the next breakthrough or revelation. We're always looking for another course we can do, retreat we can attend, or divination we can receive. When does more ever become enough?
This endless search for growth is nothing new- more than 2000 years ago Buddha identified that we're driven by desire. It's human nature (though it's also our nature to work in cycles and know our limits- which is how we maintain the balance- but that's a whole other article). Now that we see what the Jones' are up to not just next door but also across the other side of the planet, surely the pressure to perform has intensified as our audience becomes global?
Red Acorn tree cross section print by Bryan Nash Gill
I'm not saying we should stop doing any of this. I'm an ambitious woman and a firm believer in dreaming, expanding, growing and all those good things. But how do we move beyond the particular search for more that leaves us constantly simmering in the pressure-cooker? We don't. We will always be craving, and attempting to eliminate this would just be another trap of thinking we need to strive for something to transcend the striving.
So while we're scrolling through the feed being bombarded with 'get more this' or 'become more that', perhaps all we need to implement is simply the pause button. In between the growth spurts and the meaning-seeking we need periods where we just-
It doesn't have to be a fancy meditation or ritual, just a moment to acknowledge how far we have come and what we've already achieved. A crack in time to see what resources we have and to give ourselves that "hey, you're a good egg" pat-on-the-back. It won't necessarily transform our lives or create soul-shattering changes, but for that brief moment, let it be enough.
Ultimately, it comes back to us allowing space to recognise our intrinsic value. Our worth is with us from birth. Our enoughness resides in the liminal spaces, where there is no fame or glory or action. It's sitting there quietly, murmuring over the din of better, "I exist. I'm here."
Take a deep breath...
did you hear it?